With the latest predictions suggesting Israel’s tourism industry could lose up to $1.16 billion due to the COVID-19 crisis, Jewish National Fund-USA (JNF-USA) is helping Israeli tour guides through an innovative new virtual travel initiative.

In launching JNF Virtual Travel & Tours, the organization’s travel department is offering seats on virtual tour buses to some of Israel’s iconic and lesser-known travel destinations. Current itineraries include visits to the Old City of Jerusalem, Ayalon Institute, Akko, Be’er Sheva and the JNF Sderot Indoor Recreation Center.

Ann and Herb Daitch of Natick’s Temple Israel joined other congregants on a recent “trip” to Israel led by JNF-USA’s Rina Wagman and Temple Natick’s Dubi Gordon. The couple was surprised by how real the trip felt: “Prior to this JNF-USA virtual tour, neither of us had physically visited Israel more recently than 10 years ago,” said Ann. “Because we’re not experienced tour guides, we probably didn’t make the most of our last time in Israel. Even though we were not physically in Israel, the virtual tour gave us such a superb overview of the land of Israel and its people; the varied geography, history and people. JNF-USA’s tour guide was so knowledgeable and when he didn’t immediately have an answer to a question, he got one by the next day of the tour. We couldn’t say enough good things about our tour.”

Boston Zoom bus
JNF-USA’s Boston Zoom bus (Screenshot)

The virtual buses include seating for up to 22 “Zoom squares.” Each bus also includes a licensed Israeli tour guide and a professional JNF-USA staff member. A $50 registration fee covers one hour of touring per day over the weeklong visit taking place Monday through Thursday (4-5 p.m. each day). A nightly social dinner and cocktail hour is held following each touring hour. On Friday, participants experience a beautiful pre-Shabbat experience between 4-5 p.m.

Fellow Temple Israel congregants Kurt and Sue Linden were also impressed by their virtual tour experience: “Sue and I greatly enjoyed the virtual Israel tour and got so involved with the tour guide’s comments and the camaraderie among the participants that sometimes we forgot that we weren’t actually physically there. We’ve been to Israel many times, but the tour guide’s insight and attention to details really made this virtual trip realistic and most enjoyable.”

Sign post israel
Virtual tours take travelers off the beaten path (Courtesy Jewish National Fund-USA)

Jewish National Fund-USA is the leading philanthropic organization for Israel that supports critical environmental and nation-building activities in Israel’s north and south. Through its One Billion Dollar Roadmap for the Next Decade, Jewish National Fund-USA is developing new communities in the Galilee and Negev, connecting the next generation to Israel and creating infrastructure for ecology, special needs and heritage preservation.

For more information on JNF Virtual Travel & Tours, email Ilana Rosenzweig at irosenzweig@jnf.org or call 212-879-9305 ext. 255.

This post has been contributed by a third party. The opinions, facts and any media content are presented solely by the author, and JewishBoston assumes no responsibility for them. Want to add your voice to the conversation? Publish your own post here.